In perhaps the most vitriolic critique of oil companies, protesters again raised their voices at the COP27 venue in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt, as world leaders continue to figure out just how to keep global emissions at 1.5 degrees Celsius.
A group representing over 400 civil society organizations around the world said they were tired of seeing oil barons and oil lobbyists, and their enablers taking the front seat at climate negotiations, while the people affected by their nefarious wealth-seeking drive are left on the sidelines.
“We call them polluters and violators,” said one protester. But it seems those adjectives weren’t strong enough to describe what the majority of the protesters really feel about big oil companies.
“They are criminals,” came a chorus from the scores of protesters present. “We have to kick them out of the COP,” they said.
According to the Campaign group, Global Witness, the number of delegates to the COP has spiked by 25% from those who turned out in Glasgow. It said more than 600 people at the talks in Sharm El Sheikh have links to fossil fuels.
“That’s more than the combined delegations from the 10 most climate-impacted countries,” notes the BBC. Around 35,000 people are expected to attend the COP27 summit in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh.
One of the protesters, the Nigerian Rita Uwaka told Timescape Magazine that the oil lobbyists are in Egypt to obstruct any negotiations that can lead to sustainable solutions to the global climate crisis.
“They are hijacking and manipulating the negotiation process and we feel that these corporations that are criminals, that are stealing away our lands, polluting our land; fueling the climate crisis, especially in Africa need to be kicked out,” Uwaka who coordinates Friends of the Earth Africa said.
“It’s high time we had sanity in COP, and the only way we can get sanity and justice is to make sure that these polluters not only pay for the historical harm they have caused but also be kicked out of COP events.”
She accused the lobbyists of not only manipulating COP texts but also of manipulating governments into adopting false solutions.
“We don’t want false solutions. The real solutions are led by communities. We want solutions like renewable energy that are sustainable and accessible to people. We want solutions like agroecology where you put food production in the hands of the people. We want forest management methods that put the management of our forests in the hands of communities, not putting a price tag on the forest by carving them and making those that are custodians of these forests not to be able to access the resources of these forests, all in the name of Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD) which is a false solution that is being promoted here.
Noting that global emissions must decline by at least 45% by 2030 for the world to be on track to the 1.5 degree warming limit, the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres offered perhaps his sternest critique of the fossil fuel industries.
“I have a message for fossil fuel companies and their financial enablers,” he said. “The so-called net-zero pledges that exclude core products and activities are poisoning our planet. They must thoroughly review their pledges …and let’s say it as it is: Using bogus ‘net zero’ pledges to cover up massive fossil fuel expansion is reprehensible. It is rank deception. This toxic cover-up could push our world over the climate cliff,” he said.
“The sham must end,” he added, in an emphatic fashion.
Earlier this year, Guterres, offered similar criticism of the fossil fuel industry and called out those who see climate activists as deranged individuals disturbing the public peace.
“Climate activists are sometimes depicted as dangerous radicals,” he said upon the release of the latest IPCC report on the mitigation of climate change.“But the truly dangerous radicals are the countries that are increasing the production of fossil fuels.”
This story was produced as part of the 2022 Climate Change Media Partnership, a journalism fellowship organized by Internews' Earth Journalism Network and the Stanley Center for Peace and Security. It was first published in Timescape Magazine on 11 November 2022 and has been lightly edited for length and clarity.
Banner image: Protesters at COP27 / Credit: Killian Ngala.